On the heels of his historic ascent of DNA, possibly the world’s second 5.15d, Frenchman Seb Bouin has turned his attention to another project: visiting and developing some of France’s lesser-known crags. He’s documenting this process in a new film series called “Hidden Gems,” and the first installment—a visit to Thaurac—dropped this week.
Thaurac is the sort of crag that, in the United States, would be the climber’s version of a household name: It’s home to some 1,000 limestone sport routes and located just an hour by car from Montpelier, one of Southern France’s largest cities. Yet it’s nonetheless off the radar of most foreign climbers, in part because it so-far lacks the higher grades that tend to make areas famous. Bouin’s episode, however, might begin to change that. In the film he FAs three new routes between 5.14b and 5.14d, and bolts a heinous-looking project—all on the amazing, slightly overhung limestone for which France is rightly renowned.
Describing the YouTube series in a press release, Bouin says, “The goal is easy: find the hidden gems. We are living in [such a] beautiful country for rock climbing. We have plenty of crags and routes which are almost unknown. A lot of people are working hard to develop these climbing spots. … We want to introduce you to the people who are making the climbing places alive. … They will share with us the story of the places, and I will try hard on the routes.”
This new series follows Bouin’s previous project, The Vintage Rock Tour, during which he traveled around France repeating the country’s most historic testpieces. During the process, he sent various rarely-traveled finger-tweakers like Ben Moon’s Agincourt (France’s first 8c / 5.14b) and then made the second ascent of Fred Rouhling’s controversial Akira, the world’s first proposed 9b / 5.15b. (Bouin downgraded it to 5.14d.)